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Lunchtime talk write-up
Posted on Fri 3 Feb 2017

Sound Illusions

This week, long-time resident Tarim and collaborator Alex Jones who is a final year student, joined us to share their thoughts on why our sense of hearing isn't as simple as it may seem.

Posted by

Jo Lansdowne

Jo leads Watershed's Creative Technology team; supporting research activity, talent development and the resident community to deliver brilliant work.




Tarim creates Media Playgrounds - installations which people can both play with and build new and different places to play in.

Alex Jones

This week, long-time resident Tarim and collaborator Alex Jones who is a final year Audio and Music Technology student, joined us to share their thoughts on why our sense of hearing isn't as simple as it may seem.

Supported through UWE's research internship programme they have been exploring how to create affordable (under £1000) spatialised audio - sound that is placed in a space so that you feel like you’re truly inside the story as it moves around you.

My five headlines are:

- Many of us take sound for granted but actaully what we hear is full of complex processes, tricks and illusion. The brain recognises specific sounds and makes assumptions depending on our expectations and what direction the sound is coming from. This can create a very subtle effect in performance. 

- Flightpaths is a new piece that intergrates aerial movement, music and live description from theatre company Extant. They work with visually impaired people (both performers and audience), and wanted to create a test piece that used spacialised audio. They had a small budget but luckily in theatre, you are not searching for absolute realism - you are looking to caputure the essence of an idea or an emotion which the audience can respond to. 

- Object-based Audio is used in systems like Dolby Atmos and BEAST in Birmingham. These are amazing but rely on huge budgets and big teams of skilled people.  Working with local company Minirig (who have been brilliant) they have built a more flexible test system using just eight speakers.

- The most satisfying moment during the test performance was when Bella, a guide dog, 'watched' the course of a plane flying overhead when they played the sound track. 

- There was a lot of technical information which our amazing attendees seemed to understand but that I could not do justice to, but luckily Alex is looking to open source the software for performers, makers, games designers etc (it can be easily linked to tracking devices and Alex was controlling it using Leap Motion) so if you want more detail you can get in touch with them: @tarim8